Published in The Road Ahead, RACQ
The two-day Spicers Walk is perfect for those who want a luxe bush experience.
“We could get a stir-fry going”, jokes Hayden, our guide, as he points out native ginger, pepperberry and Morton Bay chestnut.
We are on the Spicers two-day Scenic Rim Trail in south-east Queensland, a small group guided walk for 12 people that combines trekking and glamping. Each day we hike around 13km, returning to Canopy glampground for a feast and après-walk activities (think hot tub, marshmallow toasting, stargazing) and the option of an extra “recovery” night at Spicers Peak Lodge. With guides, bag delivery, gourmet meals and wine, it’s perfect for those wanting to dip their toe into multiday walks without roughing it.
Earlier that day we met guides Hayden and Ellie and our fellow walkers at Spicers’ hiking HQ on the Cunningham Highway, 110km south-west of Brisbane, where we left our bags and were taken to the foothills of Main Range National Park.
At the start of the walk, our guides suggest we stamp our feet as an acknowledgement that we will be crossing three different Indigenous countries belonging to the Yuggera, Barunggam and Bundjalung people.
We take the route to Mount Mathieson, and after walking through eucalyptus forest followed by an uphill rocky clamber, we stop for a billy tea and Anzac biscuits while overlooking an ancient volcanic plateau.
After morning tea, we again walk through eucalyptus forest, then round the corner, where we suddenly find ourselves in lush subtropical rainforest, a remnant of Gondwanaland.
Along the way we keep our eyes peeled for elusive koalas, which Hayden calls “the fine wine of the Australian bush”, as well as Glossy Black-cockatoos and endangered Rock-wallabies.
The walk is aimed at those of average fitness and the pace is just right, with Hayden in front pointing out plants and animals and Ellie bringing up the rear. We never feel rushed or as though we are dragging our heels.
After a delicious beetroot, chickpea and chicken salad lunch, we take the historic Spicers Gap Road, which once linked Brisbane to the Darling Downs. It’s amazing to think that this tranquil area was once so trafficked that it afforded two pubs.
To break the post-lunch trudge, our guides invite us to try Japanese forest bathing or shinrin-yoku. We separate and for an hour walk one by one, silently immersed in nature.
The final stretch is through Spicers’ private nature refuge, where we see the innovative “drinkie bill” contraption that helps koalas get water.
It’s late afternoon when we arrive at Canopy, Spicers’ eco glampground. We are met by chef Nikki and host Sophie with elderflower-laced water, hot towels, scones and champagne.
Canopy has a wooden lodge, with a cosy lounge and dining area surrounded by luxurious safari-style tents, to which our bags have been delivered. The tents have polished timber floors, electricity, plush king beds and private decks. Facilities are shared but of high quality with hot showers, luxe bathroom products and there’s even a hairdryer.
We enjoy an aperitif followed by a gourmet dinner then join Hayden and Ellie around the fire pit to stargaze and toast marshmallows before collapsing into our snug beds.
The next day, after a hearty cooked breakfast, we’re ready for another adventure.
Because of trackwork on the planned trail, we do a 12.4km rainforest trek up Mount Cordeaux instead. I’m reminded of the benefits of a guided walk – arrangements are taken care of if there are changed track conditions or unexpected weather events.
It is a slow but stunning grind through the filmy rainforest of strangler figs, palms and tree ferns. Eagle-eyed Ellie shows us a trapdoor spider’s home and points out native raspberry, which gets us in the mood for morning tea – bliss bombs studded with apricot – while overlooking the Fassifern Valley.
Ellie tells us that Mount Cordeaux was used by Indigenous clans to send smoke signals to other clans to meet, the most important gathering being the Bunya Nut celebration.
After our break, it’s a gut-busting slog to the summit before we zigzag down the mountain. When we trundle into Canopy for the much-anticipated Spicers welcome, it’s straight to the hot tub for some, but I enjoy a sundowner before our dinner of pork roasted in apple cider, potatoes with caper cream and pumpkin sourdough with charcoal butter, all topped off with a lemon syrup cake. Then we dive into bed.
Spicers Peak Lodge
The next day after breakfast, it’s time to say farewell, but I’m not ready to return to reality, so am pleased to have taken the extra “recovery” night at Spicers Peak Lodge.
Spicers Peak Lodge at the top of nearby Cedar Mountain is one of Australia’s premier lodges and it exudes relaxed luxury. However, it doesn’t matter that we have turned up in our daggy bushwalking gear, there are no pretensions here.
There are plenty of activities, but we opt for a rejuvenating massage followed by a five-course degustation and paired wines – a sumptuous finale to our glamping trek.
This is a guided two-night small group adventure for up to 12 walkers of moderate fitness departing from Cunningham’s Gap.